Lately, event planners across the globe are being forced to choose between canceling or postponing their 2020 events. While canceling or postponing an event might be the appropriate decision for some types of gatherings, other events might lend themselves well to virtual experiences.
For many event planners, a virtual event is brand new territory — territory that they haven’t ever explored. Taking an event online for the first time would typically follow months of research and planning; however, our current situation came on quickly and left many planners in a time crunch to crank out a stellar virtual event, on the first try.
For those of you trying to navigate this transition of in-person events to virtual experiences, I’ve put together a how-to guide to make things easier. Every event is different and defined by its own unique details (hey, that’s what makes events so awesome!), so this how-to guide is more of a general starting point for virtual event planning and not meant to be all encompassing.
How To Make Your Event Virtual
- Determine the parts of your in-person event that will transition seamlessly to an online experience. If portions of your event don’t make sense as virtual components, don’t include them.
- Get buy-in from key stakeholders.
- Consider your event delivery. How will your attendees access the event? Will they view the session by simply logging into social media and joining via live video? Or will you need a virtual platform to host your content? Take the complexity of your event into consideration and research your options. Whatever option you choose, be sure to:
- Do a test run ahead of time
- Create and share an instruction manual so everyone involved knows how to smoothly navigate the technology
- Make sure your technology help desk is on call for the duration of the event.
- Reimagine your event agenda to ensure maximum engagement. The biggest obstacle in losing face-to-face interaction is keeping your audience engaged. You can’t expect your attendees to sit and listen to a speaker for an hour virtually, like you could physically. Break up sessions, videos, and other content by integrating interactive activities like live polling, Q&A, surveys, trivia, and more.
- Get creative and make it memorable. Just because you’re moving things online doesn’t mean you have to give up on opportunities for networking and fun. Plan a virtual happy hour; begin the day with virtual group yoga; or offer an online networking lounge where peers collaborate via chat rooms.
- Set the tone of your event by sending a swag bag to your attendees’ front porch! Include branded items that will make their online event experience smooth and easy: a mouse pad, wireless charging station, coffee grounds and a mug, headphones, healthy snacks ... you get the idea!
- Consider everyone involved. As you plan your online event, walk through the virtual experience from every point of view (think about your attendees, sponsors, speakers, staff, and anyone else involved). What does each group need from the event in order to walk away happy and feeling like it was worth their time?
Bringing an event online is a great alternative to canceling or postponing. If you have an event that would translate well to the online world, now is the time to make that transition. As you begin planning your virtual gathering, be sure to keep two things top of mind: engage your audience and deliver value. If your online event does both of those things, you can consider it a job well done!